Lectins and Plant-Herbivore Interactions

  • Daniel H. Janzen
Part of the Recent Advances in Phytochemistry book series (RAPT, volume 15)


When an animal takes a bite out of a plant, it is gustatorily and digestively treading on a battlefield implanted and strewn with traits generated by natural selection during millions of years of acts of herbivory. The glycoproteins called lectins are heterogeneous in kind, place and density in this battlefield. How animals respond to this pattern and its parts suggest that lectins may be more than simply one more of nature’s many kinds of glue. They are quite unfortunately called “lectins” since it is their sticky nature that is the basis of their biological function; while they are specific in their attachment to certain sugars, the fact that the same sugars can occur on the surface of many different kinds of cells makes them in fact highly variable in the specificity of their stickiness at the cellular level of organization (which surely is the level of concern when one calls them “lectins”).


Seed Predator Legume Seed Seed Species Cyanogenic Glycoside Black Bean 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel H. Janzen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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